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Formula 1 Singapore GP

Sainz not discounting Verstappen from Singapore F1 victory battle

Carlos Sainz anticipates a fight with the top five starters during the Singapore Grand Prix for a first Formula 1 victory of 2023, but warned Max Verstappen cannot be discounted.

Pole man Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Sainz collected his second consecutive F1 pole having managed to head qualifying in Monza, and starts alongside George Russell on the front row of the grid.

The rest of the top five include Sainz's Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, McLaren's Lando Norris, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen meanwhile was eliminated in Q2 during a miserable qualifying session, in which he was handed a trio of stewards' investigations for alleged impeding offences. His further blushes were spared as none of those investigations yielded a penalty, cementing his 11th-place grid position.

Despite Red Bull's pace struggles in Singapore, having encountered challenges with balance and a weak front end, Sainz reckoned that Verstappen may still have a part to play in the victory battle.

"I don't think you can ever discount Max and Red Bull. They might turn up with a race pace that they've had there all season, and still managed somehow to make it through the field," Sainz explained.

"But, for sure, around here, they have a much more difficult task. And it's a much better opportunity [for us] than Monza, for example.

"I think tomorrow the race is going to be between the top five cars that are starting."

"It is true that George has this extra medium tyre but we could also do a two-stop as the soft didn't look too bad. I think it will be a tough race to manage, a tough race to put together but I think if we nail it, we have a great opportunity."

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Russell had been keen to underline Mercedes' strong race pace in their practice simulations, and reckoned that the Brackley squad held a strategic advantage over Ferrari having saved an extra set of medium tyres.

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He did not mention Verstappen as one of his key challengers for victory and reckoned that Ferrari and Norris would be the main protagonists in the battle against the Mercedes duo.

"Yeah, I think the fight will be with Ferrari. We can't discount Lando either, he's got good race pace. Their race pace probably looked a little bit ahead of Ferrari's," Russell said.

"But it's just going to be around tyre degradation, around the pitstops. In all honesty, we're sitting here now, we don't know exactly how the tyre deg's going to pan out.

"On a circuit that is difficult to overtake, you're going to have to bide your time and maximise it around those pitstops."

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